A long-running joke amongst my family members was that our grandfather, or Pa as we called him, didn’t know our names. Without a nip of good old Jack in his holiday soda he hardly ever spoke anyway much less called us out specifically.
I always looked forward to domino nights at Grandma and Pa’s because those were the rare occasions in which Pa would cut lose and use his words.
I can still hear the sound of those hard plastic rectangles slapping against that horrible leaf-patterned Formica table. I loved the cloud of cigar smoke as the men puffed their stogies and Grandma lit another Camel.
Small arguments would erupt and swear words would cross the table and then another domino would smack the yellow leaves and curses were forgotten. Somewhere in the nicotine fog and the greasy haze of Grandma’s burgers or Pa’s chili and the smack of plastic on plastic that quiet giant would speak. It never amounted to much but when you heard his voice it caught your attention.
My Pa was a mechanic. His dark blue work clothes always covered in grease. There was a tiny screwdriver with a magnet on the end that never left his pocket. All these years later I have one of my own and I never fail to see Pa’s face when I stumble across it.
He worked hard every day to provide for his family. He didn’t take sick days. Even though the business was his own and he could have shown up any time, he was there bright and early every morning after his toast and coffee in that pink bakelite cup.
When the workday was done you wouldn’t find Pa sitting around the house. He was in the garden because my grandfather was also a farmer. Pa riding around on his big blue tractor was a common sight and even more common were the bushels of peas, ears of corn, and all the other delights he coaxed from that gravel riddled dirt.
I can still hear that air cannon firing every couple of hours to keep the corn-nibbling deer away. Many night’s sleep were interrupted by the firing of that cannon or the clanging of pie pans hung like wind chimes. I hated that cannon until it stopped firing and now I miss it.
We, as a family, spent many days with fingers purple and wrinkled from shelling peas and hands covered in clay from digging up potatoes. We sliced open countless fresh off the vine watermelons and dug in with salt and spoon in hand. We moaned and complained at every strand of silk in a fresh ear of corn but at the end of those days, we knew those things that our grandfather grew for us would create another meal that would fill our bellies.
He only ever sat when the news came on. That usually spread into Wheel of Fortune, even though he never answered the puzzles out loud I bet he knew every single one. Sometimes his much deserved rest would spread into Gunsmoke but more often than not he would quietly disappear to bed, no goodnights, just a suddenly empty recliner.
That’s all I ever saw as a child. Hard work with no complaints or excuses. No crying over cuts and bruises. No rushing around because he’d overslept or lost his keys.
Bright and early, out the door and into the truck which always smelled vaguely of grease and Catfish Charlie. Down the road at a leisurely 40 miles per hour.
Even when the shop was moved and his work was right outside his door he could still be found sitting at the table drinking coffee out of that pink cup as the sun rose. You could still find him bright and early in his shop with his arms inside a motor. If you didn’t hear the clicks of a ratchet you could look to the left and see him on that tractor with the literal fruits of his labor growing around him. Working, always working.
Fast forward to my own adulthood. While I have no tiny pink bakelite coffee cup and my ratchet is a keyboard you can still find me here bright and early.
If I’ve used a sick day, I should have probably been at the hospital. The notion of vacation gives me anxiety. If I clock in at 8 a.m. I feel like I’m late.
You won’t find me rushing around because I’ve overslept or lost my keys. No one will ever have to wonder if I’m going to make it today. Everyone I work with knows if I’m not here, I might be dead.
This is my responsibility and I take it very seriously.
A life lived watching my quiet, hardworking grandfather taught me the importance of honoring my obligations and the satisfaction that comes from a hard day’s work. He taught me to take pride in my craft.
With nary a word, June Grubbs taught me how to be an adult and it’s a lesson for which I will always be grateful.
Amber Lollar is the reporter for The Henderson News. Her e-mail address is <email@example.com>. © 2020, Henderson Newspapers Inc.